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Op/Ed

ListingDoor model and assertions are not only offensive to Realtors, but wildly inaccurate

ListingDoor, built by a veteran Realtor says they save buyers from paying broker’s commissions, which they call a “loss of as much as 40 to 50% of home equity.” What?!

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A statement circulated today by ListingDoor.com proves the old truism that “All real estate is local” and rides the new wave of websites promising to help homeowners sell their homes better, faster, cheaper, all by themselves. They’re calling themselves the “Uber” of real estate. Interesting…

Last June, I wrote here about OpenDoor.com’s $9 million launch that promised an oh-so-similar result (“Sold. The Minute You’re Ready,” the site brags). A quick check today shows a whopping 45 move-in-ready homes listed on their site for sale, all in the Phoenix, Airzona area. I tried entering various zip codes and addresses from across the country, as if I was a homeowner trying to use their service, with no luck. I’m not worried that homeowners in 95 percent of the United States will be trying this any time soon.

“Veteran Realtor” launches startup with recycled model

Today the launch is ListingDoor.com – similar name, similar vision, and even more hyperbole in their promotional materials.

Let’s start with the first sentence of their press release: “In response to the thriving FSBO market, veteran real estate broker and author Sissy Lappin launches ListingDoor.com, providing profitable and powerful marketing tools for homeowners, giving them everything they need to successfully sell their home on their own.” While some parts of the country are experiencing inventory shortages and perhaps FSBO’s have an easier time than in the recent past, this is by no means a nationwide phenomenon. I am not sure where she is seeing a “thriving FSBO market” but it is not everwhere.

Lappin states that “today homeowners are privy to all the same market information as real estate agents, allowing homeowners to efficiently determine the value of their home.” Really, as Zillow has proven? Because the “Zestimate” is never wrong?

The site states that a homeowner plugs in basic data and they will churn out a market report and advise in pricing. AVMs (automated valuation models) are better than they used to be, true. But in many parts of the country, especially rural areas without lots of data points, the valuations are more often skewed (extremely high or low) than they are correct.

Why would a broker say AVMs are superior to CMAs?

I find it interesting that Lappin, a real estate broker, would tout that an online computer modeled valuation would be more accurate than a skilled agent in pricing a home.

Take for example the “best house in the neighborhood.” You have a high-end home that has numerous upgrades and amenities unseen from the street and are not reflected on a tax parcel card. This luxury home sits in a predominantly middle-class neighborhood where homes are of builder-grade, no upgrades, and less square footage. Do you think that this home will be priced more accurately by a computer model or by a in-the-flesh neighborhood expert?

These business models imply agents are just door openers

What all of these sites discount or take for granted is that agents do much more than hand you a CMA and suggest a price. They are more than door openers and open-house-sitters.

A good agent does his/her job well and gets the house sold for the highest price possible in the least amount of time on market (if that is the seller’s goal). A great agent counsels and advises, listens to the seller’s needs and take all of this into account as they guide the seller through the maze of a process.

I take offense to ListingDoor.com’s statements

While I am obviously not a fan of any site that proposes to “cut the middle man” (the agent) out of the transaction as if we hold no value, I take offense to this site’s twisting of statistics and figures to pull at a viewer’s gut.

ListingDoor proposes that a broker’s commission is a “loss of as much as 40 to 50% of home equity.” So a commission is not a “fee” – it is the broker stealing up to half the seller’s home equity. Wow. Talk about sensationalism.

Market online, but not the MLS… what?

In addition to their offering a market analysis (which is actually NOT market analysis, as no human is analyzing the facts and figures and analyzing anything, it is a computer generated crap shoot), the site states that they promote the house online and in social media marketing – but do not use the MLS.

While I agree social media marketing is crucial in selling homes these days, the MLS is still alive and kicking (and the standard source of syndication to all of the real estate portals). You can advertise on social media, but many active homebuyers will contact their own buyer’s agent in order to then make that appointment.

Avoiding the MLS cuts out any buyer’s agents who may not be aware of your home, as well as those who choose not to show FSBO’s as part of their business model (we won’t go into the ethics of this here, as that is another column completely).

“Avoid the pitfalls that come with using a real estate agent,” the site says

To drive the point home one more time, ListingDoor states that they teach you “step-by-step the right way to sell your home and avoid the pitfalls that come with using a real estate agent.”

Wow. What an amazing statement. This site’s entire marketing push seems to be that real estate agents are the enemy to avoid. We steal your home’s equity and somehow make it harder and more dangerous to sell with us than without us.

The bottom line: ListingDoor ignores the agent’s value

Cutting out the “middleman” may work in some markets, for some sellers who have expertise and knowledge in handling negotiations and transactions – but it’s not for everyone. Buying and selling a home may be the biggest financial transaction someone may make. This isn’t filing your 1040EZ form through Turbo Tax.

I personally wouldn’t want to represent a seller who feels I bring no value to the table, and that my knowledge and skills can be replaced by a computer model. The first hurdle in the sale is finding a buyer. After that is when an agent’s true value is realized, as we keep the deal together and delicately negotiated through the weeks and perhaps months required to close a loan these days.

Our value is not just in pricing a home and filling in the blanks in a contract. When the deal threatens to fall apart, that’s when “salespeople” disappear and “experts” emerge.

#ListingDoor

Erica Ramus is the Broker/Owner of Ramus Realty Group in Pottsville, PA. She also teaches real estate licensing courses at Penn State Schuylkill and is extremely active in her community, especially the Rotary Club of Pottsville and the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce. Her background is writing, marketing and publishing, and she is the founder of Schuylkill Living Magazine, the area's regional publication. She lives near Pottsville with her husband and two teenage sons, and an occasional exchange student passing thru who needs a place to stay.

Op/Ed

I’m just not impressed by the glorification of over-scheduling your life

(OPINION) If you’re one of those people who keep scheduling their calendar to the brim, check yourself to see if that’s really a fulfilling way to live.

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desk office scheduling myths

COVID has changed our lives in so many ways, especially how we think about scheduling, and as the world opens back up, people are already overdoing it, perhaps thirsty to make up for lost time. Many call these holiday weeks of historically high traveling levels, “revenge travel,” and that tracks with how we’re viewing the resurgence.

But if you’re one of those people who keep their calendar filled up with meetings, activities, and appointments, check yourself to see if that’s really a fulfilling way to live. In some circles, it’s almost become a badge of honor to have a calendar without any open spaces. If you feel as if your calendar is out of control, you’re not alone. But you are the only one who can take control of your schedule.

Might I recommend that you stop over-scheduling your time?

One of my first articles at The American Genius was about the false hustle. Being busy all the time is not good for you physically or mentally. It’s exhausting. When your calendar is full, it has to be stressful never to have time for yourself or have the ability to sit down and read or do whatever you want.

Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People says “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” Allow for some flexibility into your schedule. Put down what’s important to you, but don’t go gung-ho about organizing your time.

Most people have a routine. I don’t need to write down certain things in my calendar, because I know that I plan to be in church on Sunday. I’m not so rigid that I won’t take a Sunday off, but it doesn’t need to go in my calendar. Much of my work through the week is routine too. I know that I have seven articles due every Monday. I usually try to get them done Friday afternoon, but if I don’t, I know I’ll have to work on them Monday.

Now, you might tell me that you don’t have a regular routine. I know some people have different activities and appointments that have to be scheduled and can’t be missed. When I was helping at the homeschool convention, I would spend time scheduling things on my calendar that were coming up, like board meetings, deadlines, and meetings. But I also tried to leave room for adaptability.

Granted, you may have to manage a group of people and need their calendar to overlap yours. If that’s the case, may I suggest having a work calendar and a personal calendar?

Just as entrepreneurs are told to keep business and personal finances separate, leave your work calendar at work.

Ease up on your time management techniques. Know your priorities and learn to say no. Your loved ones will thank you for having some time to be spontaneous. It’s not a badge of honor to keep your calendar so full that you can’t enjoy life.

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Op/Ed

Confessions of a productive person: keeping a clean desk

(EDITORIAL) Being a productive, clean person is nowhere near as difficult as it sounds – start with these simple steps focused on reduction in your life.

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We keep a clean office, there’s no secret about that, and the desks are usually clear of papers and clutter. Some call it minimalism, others call it clean, but most people just call it “wow” and ask how we keep such clean lives.

Studies show that your brain is hardwired to have cluttered thought patterns when you are surrounded by clutter, yes, even those of you that live in a pile of papers (which of course you have “a system” for). It can be intimidating to even get started when you have a messy office, but there are a few things that anyone can do to regain control and help your brain function at its optimal rate, improve productivity, and prove to clients and coworkers that you mind the details like no one else.

Friends and coworkers ask me constantly how I get so much done in the average day, and it isn’t because of my smartphone, no, it’s because I am a focused workhorse. A huge part of that is keeping a very clean environment. Let’s talk about why that’s important (and why you should ignore the “but geniuses have messy desks” bullcrap editorials).

Perhaps you put to-do items on post-it notes or pieces of paper, or you pile up files that need to be dealt with – one of the most common reasons desks are messy. This method of task management is ineffective and tells your brain to panic because what you’re doing right now may or may not be as important as those 35 stickies, so you either pause frequently to reflect on the dozens of other unprioritized tasks, or your brain constantly churns in the background having been distracted with this mess that represents tasks, or you simply learn to tune the noise out, which defeats the purpose of your reminder system.

To change this, either implement tech tools to manage your tasks (search this site for “task management” and see dozens of tools) or keep one pad of paper or journal on your desktop.

Picking up trash to make it clean.

Another common item on desks is what? Envelopes. One of the tricks I’ve found is that no matter the envelope, it gets torn open and processed while I’m on hold or on a conference call I don’t have to speak on. Before you leave for the day, every bill should be torn open and either dealt with, filed, or if you must keep it on your desk, have a beautiful inbox or even a clipboard to keep them all in the same spot.

There are much more sophisticated methods, but let’s face it, you have to start small to ensure good habits. The same goes for files – be smart about processing paper in your downtime.

My core confession that you may have picked up on so far is that I love to trash stuff.

I didn’t use to be this way, I used to hoard paper, but it is how I began my journey toward being more productive – trashing. Remember that every time you throw just one envelope away, you’re making progress that is tangible, and you should learn to enjoy that progress and associate positive feelings with keeping things clean.

What else holds you back from keeping a clean work area and focusing on your tasks for the day? Often, books pile up or files start stacking themselves up magically. I’ve found that having aesthetically appealing storage systems (boxes, filing cabinets, files, pen holders, etc.) makes you feel rewarded for using them. It’s a subtle trick, but if you invest in your desk accouterments, you feel compelled to use them, which inadvertently keeps you organized.

Look, these are simple things to do – ditch sticky notes, deal with mail and files before you leave for the day, and surround yourself with beautiful tools that keep you organized. This is where it begins – instead of being addicted to hoarding crap on your desk, work on rewiring your brain to enjoy reduction.

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Op/Ed

No more boring long meetings, here’s how to communicate efficiently

(EDITORIAL) Communication in business is much different than in day to day life, you have to change your talking style to give information without losing engagement.

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Mark Zuckerberg once said, “The thing that we are trying to do at Facebook (now known as Meta), is just helping people connect and communicate more efficiently.” One of my biggest pet peeves on social media is the post that goes on and on and on. I’d like to think that I communicate fairly well, but I do tend to verge into over-communication every so often. I’m not an expert, but I have learned – and continue to learn – a few things about talking and writing to other people.

Know Your Audience

At a board meeting of a local non-profit, I was explaining a repair project that we had to vote on. When I got finished talking about the quotes and the insurance claim and said that we will probably come out even, the acting president looked at me and said, “why didn’t you just tell us this to start out with?” I realized I had wasted about 10 minutes because I didn’t know the audience. Definitely a case of overcommunication. All he wanted was the bottom line, but I thought the board needed to know every detail. Chalk that one up to a lesson learned. When your listener’s eyes start to glaze over, you’re probably talking too much.

Be Intentional – AKA Don’t Go Down Rabbit Trails

When I’m with my friends, I love just letting the conversation take us down whatever path. In business, I want brevity. I’m kind of a TL;DR person. Even though I want to make sure that people have enough information, I just want the bottom line. When you’re communicating with a co-worker or boss, don’t let your message get hijacked by taking a fork in the road. You’ll lose your audience.

Avoid the Obvious

I hate it when people regurgitate information or tell me what I already know. Call it mansplaining or just being thorough, but it’s annoying on the listener’s side. Give information that serves your audience, not your ego.

Don’t Assume

I could write a dissertation on assumptions. We all know the saying, “when you assume, you make an ass out of u and me…” When you’re communicating, find a balance between stating the obvious and assuming your listener knows what you’re talking about. The simple question, “do you need more information” can be a place where you can find out what your listener needs. But I’ve also learned to avoid assuming someone’s emotions or attitude about what you’re saying. Read their face, but know that confusion and daydreaming can look similar.

Good Communication Improves Productivity

When you’re an effective communicator, it directly impacts your effectiveness in the workplace. You get more done because you’re not going back and forth answering and re-answering questions and providing information. There are times when you do need to provide lengthy emails or have detailed meetings. Knowing the difference keeps you from being boring and long-winded. Take a few seconds (or even minutes) before sending that message or talking to a colleague about a project. You’ll be a better communicator.

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